[I] believe that the Christianization of Europe, the integration of Christianity in the European mental system was the most disastrous event in history that has happened up to this point – a catastrophe in the true meaning of the term. ~ Alain de Benoist, The Religion of Europe
With that Benoist relegates 1500 years of European history as not only insignificant, but also pernicious – and not merely pernicious, but the “most” pernicious event. Was it worse than the “enlightening” of Europe that led to the French Revolution with all its excesses and the introduction of leftism as normative? Was it worse than the Bolshevik revolution that enslaved millions in Europe for decades? Was it worse than World War II, resulting in millions of dead European men and rendering all anti-left thinking as intellectually dubious and morally reprehensible right up until our day?
If this claim is true, then the French Revolution, which was at its roots secular and anti-Christian, was a liberation of the “European mental system”, the overturning of a catastrophe. So, we can only assume that Benoist, allegedly a “man of the right”, would himself have “stormed the Bastille”, shouting “liberty, fraternity, brotherhood”.
We expect an intellectual to speak precisely, so there are no excuses to be made. It is one thing to be non-Christian for personal reasons, but quite another to make such an absurd historical claim. One suspects his intelligence is “perverted by passion, or evil habit, or an evil disposition of nature”.
The Point of Support
Benoist used to work for the Action française as a young man and he also claims to have some 600 volumes by and about Charles Maurras in his personal library. So he is certainly familiar with this quote from Maurras — also a non-Christian — from Religious Democracy.
All my favorite ideas—order, tradition, discipline, hierarchy, authority, continuity, unity, work, family, corporation, decentralization, autonomy, organization of workers—had been preserved and perfected by Catholicism. As Catholicism of the Middle Ages wallowed in the philosophy of Aristotle, our social naturalism took Catholicism as one of its most solid and the dearest points of support.
Unfortunately, Benoist does not address these points, so we can only speculate. Either Benoist denies that Catholicism has historically embodied those characteristics, or else they are simply not among his favorite ideas. Specifically, if Catholic social theory was not the basis for French society, that what is? The only alternative is the secularism arising from the French Revolution, since that revolution was a pagan uprising.
So, of these qualities, which ones does Benoist reject?
- Organization of Workers
Benoist seems to overlook those ideas. Like all moderns, he regards tolerance as one of the primary virtues. In his exuberance, he points to the Romans as exemplars of religious tolerance. Of course, that tolerance came at a heavy price: the “other” was tolerated as long as he subordinated his own gods to Rome.
Fustel de Coulanges, in the Ancient City, points out that neighboring city-states were not at all tolerant of each other. Although their respective religions were superficially similar, their practice was quite different. In the event of a conflict, the victor would utterly destroy the losing city and kill all its inhabitants. So much for mutual tolerance.
Obviously, Maurras did not list tolerance as one of his favorite ideas. Nevertheless, the Catholic tradition interacted intellectually with pagans, Jews, and Muslims. They did such not out of tolerance, but rather in the recognition that they all possessed some elements of the True. That is not far from the Guenonian ideal of a fundamental unity of metaphysical principles taught by each Tradition.
Benoist revives the old canard about being “life affirming”. He writes:
there is no place in paganism for a theology of exile, based on the uprooting, the absence in the world, the absolute distance or critical negativity.
Yet Julius Evola describes the attitudes of men of the Solar Race:
the type of men who naturally, through a not yet dim memory of origins and a condition of soul and body that do not cripple such a memory, feel they do not properly belong to the terrestrial race, to the extent of believing themselves men only by accident, or through “ignorance”, or “sleep”. The two terms vidya and avidya of the ancient Indo-Aryan teaching, that mean respectively “knowledge” (of the “supreme identity”) and “ignorance” (that leads to the self-identification with one of the forms or modes of being of the conditioned world)
And James warns us “to keep one’s self unspotted from this world”.
Benoist doubles down on a bad bet:
The whole Judeo-Christian theology based on the distinction of being created (the world) and uncreated being (God) … God is realized only by and in the world.
Quite the contrary, God is realized by transcending the world. The distinction he is missing is that between “being” and “becoming”. This is not just Christian, but it is likewise pagan; just read the first chapter of Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World as described in A Priori and Ab Initio.
Benoist fails to grasp that in the Christian view, God is not merely transcendent, He is immanent also, since in Him “we move and have our being”. If man is just part of the world process, as Benoist asserts, then he is unfree, the resultant of natural forces.
Benoist tries to determine this about paganism:
what inner world it returns, what form of apprehending the world it reflects
Based on no evidence beyond his ipse dixit, Benoist claims that the “gods” are merely symbolic or allegorical interpretations of “principles”. Nevertheless, they form part of the pagan mind, but they are experienced as “external” to him, as forces that do not arise within him but arrive, often arbitrarily, from some far off Mount Olympus. The gods may offer a boon or a bane, irrespective of his own merits. Hence, he is put in a position of trying to propitiate those gods, or forces.
On the contrary, for the Christian, man is created in the image and likeness of God. God is no arbitrary force, but the very center of his being. Moreover, God is concerned for man’s well-being; there are no other gods to oppose him. Man’s inner unity is not fragmented as it was for the pagan. He knows God, not as some “wholly other”, but in knowing himself, he knows God. This self-knowledge requires the development of an inner unity, unlike the natural man, dominated by the id, who seeks out nothing beyond his bodily needs and the pleasures of the world.
Not surprisingly, Benoist wants to
discard the tyranny of the Logos, the monstrous tyranny of the Law
The Logos, the principle of Order through which all beings have come into manifestation, is co-extensive with Being. Benoist, like all revolutionaries, finds this suffocating, a “monstrous tyranny”. The Communist Manifesto likewise rejects the Logos, and seeks to overturn all established order.
Religion and Nation
Plato says that kinship is the community of the same domestic gods. When Demosthenes wishes to prove that two men are relatives, he shows that they practice the same religious rites, and offer the funeral repast at the same tomb. Indeed, it was the domestic religion that constituted relationship. Two men could call themselves relatives when they had the same gods, the same sacred fire, and the same funeral repast. Now, we have already observed that the right to offer sacrifices to the sacred fire was transmitted only from male to male, and that the worship of the dead was addressed to the ascendants in the male line only. ~ Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City
Without common worship, there is no kinship. Specifically, there is no Europe, and no European identity. Pace Benoist, history bears this out. Before Charlemagne, there were only disparate and mutually incompatible tribes. Benoist’s fantasy religion of Europe never existed.
Benoist provides us with a litany of names that allegedly follow the “true” European religion. I’ll mention three in particular, Nicolas of Cusa, Jacob Boehme, and Meister Eckhart, since they will be addressed in an upcoming post. Hence, whatever is of value in this “religion of Europe”, sneaks into Benoist’s vision because they are actually Christian value. Suddenly, in all innocence, he writes of the “transcendental unity of the cosmos”.
He writes about Eckhart’s view that God must be close to man, as if it should be a surprise to us. Benoist misrepresents Eckhart’s views slightly, presumably because he does not want to have to mention Christ. That is, he claims that Eckhart asserted that “God is born in the human soul”. Of course, what Eckhart actually asserted that it is that the Son, or Logos, that is born in the soul. That is Christian teaching, emphasized again more recently, for example, by Valentin Tomberg.
What pagan ever claimed that Zeus or Jupiter or Odin was “born in the human soul”?
The Real Disaster
in a traditional social organization, an individual can be outside the castes in two ways, either because he is above them (ativarna) or because he is beneath them (avarna), and it is evident that these cases represent two opposite extremes. In a similar way, those among the moderns who consider themselves to be outside all religion are at the extreme opposite point from those who, having penetrated to the principial unity of all the traditions ~ Rene Guenon
For Tradition, the degeneration of castes is the real catastrophe. It was the overthrowing of the order of “Throne and Altar” that was the disaster. This means the displacement of the spiritual authority and temporal power from its rightful holders. Specifically, involves the successive overthrowing of the priestly and warrior castes in three loose stages, although they may be intermixed. The danger is that those who most vocally claim to be “on the right” are often part of that very degeneration
- Bourgeoisie: This caste made of farmers, merchants, and craftspeople. They can be recognized by their tendency to use the “movement” to sell merchandise, lectures, etc., and are interested in self-promotion.
- Proletariat: When emancipated from the influence of the spiritual authority, they turn to atheism, having lost any awareness of the transcendent. Like Benoist, they become hateful of the rightful religion of Europe. Tomberg affirms that they are “the class hostile to the hierarchical principle which is the reflection of divine order. This is why the proletariat professes atheism.” They may go to fancy prep schools, but their mentality is prole.
- Outcastes: This refers to those who are “below the castes”, whether by birth or by lifestype. These are the opposite of Evola’s well-bred man whose behavior was considered healthy and normal in a Traditional society.
The only right is the “opposite of a revolution”. The revolution has not had the desired effect. On the contrary, it has made the proletariat even more dependent. They are kept in line with welfare programs and sedated with sex and drugs; the modern equivalent of “bread and circuses”.
All this goes to show that Benoist is really a Jacobin, not a man of the right. By his own admission, he does not even know what the right is, since he denies the true order of things. The “new right” movements always end up on the left, or at least a branch of the racist left.
Maurras returned to the faith toward the end of his life, and so, apparently, did Martin Heidegger, who is quoted extensively by Benoist. We can certainly hope for the same from Benoist and offer up a prayer.
Postscript on a Logical Fallacy
It just came to our attention that at a White Privilege conference Christianity was blamed for everything bad that happened to those who are not white. It is curious that Christianity is a catastrophe for both the “right” and the left. Or else, it means the “new right” is actually the left, as we pointed out. So by that logic Christianity is a disaster for the left; the converse is also true.